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The Art of Making LinkedIn Connections Count

By Melissa Butcher posted 07-22-2019 10:28 AM


“…everyone is now a marketer.” -Seth Godin

I have heard engineering students say that they are going into engineering because they don’t like to write. Meanwhile, I have heard professional engineers say that they went into engineering for the technical work and had no idea how much of their time would ultimately be dedicated to communications.

To be effective, to be successful in any meaningful, long-term way, you must be able to communicate well.

Today we’re talking about communicating on LinkedIn. This is Part Two of a two-part series. In Part One, we looked at the best ways to build your LinkedIn profile. In Part Two, let’s look at how to maximize LinkedIn’s networking potential.

Some people on LinkedIn are open to connecting with people they have not met; others are not. I suggest starting your network with the people you know personally and then working to grow your network through actual live interaction.

What I mean is that you need to physically get out of your comfort zone and invest in your future by attending professional luncheons, networking events, and conferences.

Who is really going to go out of their way to help you get hired?

People who know, like and trust you. Or at least people who are being paid to do so – recruiters. A complete stranger on LinkedIn is unlikely to be willing to drop what they’re doing to help you get hired at their company.

Think about it. Imagine yourself as a busy professional. You have deadlines. You have family members you are taking care of. You have friends and a life. What does the stranger on LinkedIn mean to you?

That being said, you must still make connections. I recommend thinking about how you approach someone you have never met and be sure you do it in a respectful way and keep your expectations in check.  

That means being respectful of the other professional’s time. Personalize your invitation to them. Explain in the personalized message why you are asking them to connect with you. Do you need their help? Are you targeting their company? Do they have valuable advice you would like to solicit? Describe this and describe why you are worthy of such help.

I don’t mean you need to list off credentials or act subservient. Something as simple as – “I see you have experience in ___ and I am very interested in this topic. Would you consider connecting with me to discuss via LinkedIn messenger or a phone call?” This can go a long way towards warming you up to someone you don’t know.

It’s also worth backing up and considering – do you actually know if this person could help you get hired? For example, lower level engineers and project managers in a large organization are unlikely to have hiring powers. While they can offer referrals, be cognizant of what you’re asking for and how you’re asking for it. Ask yourself – would you yourself indulge the request if asked by a complete stranger? Have you laid the groundwork to earn this person’s trust?

A final thought

Use LinkedIn wisely. Share relevant content to engage your network and those who you would like to bring into your network. Do you have something interesting to share about graduate research or a project? Write a LinkedIn article about it and when you share it, explain what it means to you in terms of significance or community impact.

As I said in Part One, LinkedIn can be a powerful tool in your job search, but nothing is as important as your network.

Get out there and talk to people. People are looking for connections and, more often than not, are interested in helping out other people.

“This is your online reputation. Take control of it.” -Donna Serdula

Check out Part 1: Four Keys to Building the Perfect Profile on LinkedIn

Mel Butcher runs a career support group for women working in male-dominated fields called CollabSuite. She has shown her enthusiasm and dedication to supporting women in these fields through producing the Empowering Women Podcast. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter as @MelTheEngineer; you may reach her directly at [email protected].

Mel Butcher holds a BS and MS in Civil Engineering, and a BA in Language. Ms. Butcher specializes in industrial water sustainability and conservation. At Arcadis, she has played a central role in Water Research Foundation (WRF) projects related to industrial water conservation; she has conducted global water risk studies for multi-national clients, and water conservation assessments focusing on the business value of water conservation. In addition, she assists large industrial and retail clients with corporate sustainability initiatives, driving outcomes that are positive for both the environment and company’s shareholders. In 2017, Ms. Butcher was recommended for and subsequently selected for an apprenticeship under Arcadis’ Executive Vice-President of Client Development. Ms. Butcher has been recognized as a Rising Star by the Tampa Bay Association of Environmental Professionals, as a New Face of Civil Engineering - College Edition by the American Society of Civil Engineers, and was selected as a 2017 lab talent for working on the UN Sustainable Development Goals through the UNLEASH program. Recently, she completed the Water Leadership Institute program facilitated by the Water Environment Federation (WEF).